3D printing enthusiast and drone flying extraordinaire Austin Neathery recently uploaded designs for his 3D printed drone. The MK XI Micro Quad Frame is now available on 3D design platform MyMiniFactory and can be downloaded for free.

3D printing industry reported on the adventures of Austin Neathery’s 3D printed drone as we explored the uses of additive manufacturing in the drone community and took at look at the pre-CES drone rodeo event. Since then we’ve got in contact with Austin to find out how more. The Texan is a YouTuber and avid 3D printing aficionado. He tells us that 3D printing and drones are the perfect unison of his two passions.

Austin told us a bit about his future plans, how 3D printing can be used to build FPV drones and other activity in the 3D printing community,

This collaboration with MMF is exciting because it helps me have a platform to be more involved in the 3D printing community. Every project I work on is different and what I truly enjoy is hearing back from the community about how they found my content helpful or how it inspired them to do something similar.

Austin has printed a lot of frames in the past few weeks. Image via Neatherbot on MyMiniFactory.

Austin has printed a lot of frames in the past few weeks. Image via Neatherbot on MyMiniFactory.

Austin Neathery – Neatherbot

After graduating University, Austin worked for U.S. construction company Caterpillar. Working there for five years, Austin felt frustrated that he could not pursue his passion for 3D printing and was only given glimpses of additive manufacturing in his role. Despite the fact they gave him additive manufacturing projects to undertake, Austin was only given these as additions to his workflow meaning it was creating more work for himself. Austin explains how this meant leaving the company in November was partly a relief.

Now, Neathery has coupled his experience with his passion in order to fully explore 3D printing through drones. The timing proved to be apt,

It is amazing to think in the past year how much development has happened to feed the hungry appetites of pilots who want to fly faster and have more control over their drones.

The Micro Quad MK XI frame complete with electronics and motors. Image via Neatherbot on MyMiniFactory.

The Micro Quad MK XI frame complete with electronics and motors. Image via Neatherbot on MyMiniFactory.

The Micro Quad MK XI

This design is the eleventh iteration of the Micro Quad MK XI frame. It is a design Austin has perfected with several prototypes, resulting from several crashes. The design is very simple to print with no supports necessary, and while it may not look complicated at first glance, it has some very intricate features. Austin has created hollow tubes inside the arms of the frame in order to feed the electronic wiring. This subtle feature means the design is free from messy wires and he has also created a prop to mount the connector for the battery.

3D printing is the king of rapid prototyping and development.

These micro quadcopter drones are all about the frames. While of course the motors are important, the abilities of these drones differ massively based on the frames they use. Austin explains the importance of frames and how 3D printing opens up the possibilities,

The electronics in the drones are the brains and muscles but the frame is the skeleton everything fits onto. You can take the exact same electronics and put them into a new frame and get a completely different flying experience. Frame designers have been pushing the limits of weight and strength to make durable frames that are as light as possible. Being able to rapidly try new frame designs and mounts, help the community keep up with the rapidly advancing electronics.

Watch Austin showcase his new drone frame in his latest YouTube video. He also has videos on how to create the micro quad, incorporating the electronics and footage of the drone in action.

Future for Austin and 3D printed drones

Austin is excited about the future and the possibilities that are advancing through additive manufacturing. He referred to 3D printers that can print electronics and frames at the same time as significant progress for drone makers,

If that type of process continues to advance I can see how it would be possible to make drones have lighter more efficient frames with all the electronics elegantly integrated into the frame structure.

Only recently we’ve seen a drone 3D printed in ULTEM with embedded electronics, projects such as this will be more common in the future as makers push the boundaries of the technology. In 2016 ESPN and Sky Sports screened the Drone Racing League (DRL) and FPV racing is set to receive even more coverage this year. Next week the winner of DRL tryouts will be awarded $75,000 contract, and entered into the 2017 league. In 2016, 15 year old Luke Bannister from the UK took first place in the Dubai World Drone Prix winning a quarter of the $1 million prize fund.

We’ll be printing the MK XI and preparing for this season! Austin explained that his long-term plans for the future aren’t specific, except to “continue helping my community make fun projects.” So stay tuned to his MyMiniFactory page for more interesting designs. And if you print one of Austin’s drones, then do share it with us.

Nominate now for the 1st Annual 3D Printing Industry Awards. Nominations end soon. 

Featured image shows Neatherbot’s Micro Quad MK XI. Image via Neatherbot on MyMiniFactory. 

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